On the day after Chris Bosh announced his decision to join Dwyane Wade in Miami, the Toronto Raptors didn’t have any more answers on whether they would be able to pull off a sign-and-trade deal with the Heat to get something in return. They did, however, sign Denver Nuggets restricted free agent Linas Kleiza to a four-year, $20-million offer sheet. While the Nuggets have seven days to match the offer, something tells me they will not.
I was at the ACC this morning to take in some of the practice for the Raptors summer league team and ended up with a Kleiza-sighting. Near the end of the practice session, after the guys had finished scrimmaging and broken up to shoot free throws and work on things with various assistant coaches, Kleiza came into the gym. He didn’t speak with anyone, but was here, presumably, to sign the offer sheet that was reported this morning.
With a handshake for Raptors coach Jay Triano and a hug for former Denver Nuggets teammate, Sonny Weems, Kleiza was dressed down in jeans and a T-shirt, but certainly looked happy to be here. With the offer sheet from the Raptors, he’s got good reason to be. Regardless of whether Denver matches or not, he’s got $20 million coming his way.
At the end of practice, I was able to speak with DeMar DeRozan about the news of Chris leaving, the free agency circus and how that affects his role for this franchise.
- I’m sure you heard Chris’s announcement yesterday, what are your thoughts, a day later? “I wish the best for him. I think it was a great opportunity for every free agent to be in a great position. I think Chris put himself in a great position, playing with another all-star like Dwyane Wade so I’m happy for him.”
- Were you surprised with the move or did you kind of think he was going to leave as the off-season stretched on? “You thought both ways. You had hope, but at the same time, you kinda figured that him being here for awhile, just that opportunity to play with somebody like LeBron or D-Wade, you can’t turn that down.”
- The possibility of Chris, Dwyane and now maybe LeBron, it’s crazy to us. What’s it like for you, having played against the other two and played with Chris? “Man, it’s like a video game. It’s like Space Jam or something. It’s crazy. Just to hear the speculation that LeBron is going there, too. It’s just crazy. It’s interesting. I think it’s going to be a big change in the league.”
- I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but on the Raptors website and around the ACC, a lot of the old photos of Chris have been replaced with photos of you. Are you ready to take on that pressure? “I really haven’t paid attention to it, but I’ve got Twitter and everybody is writing and saying stuff to me. It’s great to have that support. I just come in every day and try to work hard, try to go out next season and do as much as I can.”
- With this “Young Gunz” movement, what’s the feel? “Keep building. We’re a very young team. A lot of us have a chance to be here for awhile. Just try to get better.”
- So the pressure doesn’t get to you? “Nah, it comes with the game. You really can’t run from it, you’ve just got to accept it and make the best of it.”
- Last week you tweeted, “Don’t worry I got us.” Was that a message to everyone that you’ve got Toronto, or what did that mean? “Everything that was going on, it was just me knowing, I’m going to be here for awhile. Players like Sonny, Amir, we’ve just gotta go out there and put on for the city. Keep representing for the Raptors, go out and do the best that we can.”
- Has Toronto become like a second home to you? “Oh yeah. It’s been fun. Growing, building new friendships and connections in the city, it makes me more comfortable.”
And now, we lurk the halls of the ACC, trying to stumble upon Linas Kleiza so we can heckle him with questions since the team can’t officially introduce him for us to speak to.